We’ll always have Paris. To certain American artists emerging in the 1950s, that was the problem. The School of Paris was flowering on their New York doorsteps. And they wanted herbicide.

If American art in the first half of the twentieth century set its sights on mastering the School of Paris—the modernism of Cézanne and Matisse—then it wasn’t long after that artists turned to the School of anti-Paris and its antimodernist dean, Duchamp. Soon enough the antimovement became a movement. The school of Duchamp became an MFA program. Even Hans Hofmann lost tenure.

The School of Paris was flowering on their New York doorsteps. And they wanted herbicide.

That’s getting ahead of things. The big question, at first, was who would be king of the heap, lord of the sewer. Johns and Rauschenberg made a go of it. Donald Judd squared...

 
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